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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Job Interviews

So, I wanted to apologize to my hoards of adoring fans (hi mom!) for not posting anything yesterday.
I had a job interview and spent the day in the big city. I can't say if I got the gig or not, but it went really well. The interviewer was an actual regular human being as opposed to some HR stiff, and we had a real conversation as opposed to a lot of the strange experiences I've had in recent years during interviews.
It got me to thinking about some of the really bad interviews that I've been involved in. The worst ones always seem to include an entire panel of people. There is always one person in these who prefers to talk about themselves and the company, and another person asking esoteric questions, like how you really feel about gluten based foods or something, because the last person in your position refused to have any gluten in the break room and eventually filed suit against them for keeping gluten products on hand.
This is the part where you are forced to speak (and allowed to bury yourself) with a ten minute dissertation regarding your thoughts about gluten, even though you never really had any at all, up until just a few second ago.
Invariably, someone eventually chimes in and asks some generic, open ended question, like, "What is your biggest strength?"
At which point, I like to portray myself as an all around superhero, and usually continue babbling incoherently until everyone sitting across the table from me has nodded in apparent agreement at least once. This is followed up with, "What is your biggest weakness?"
Even though the answer is obvious based on my previous responses (Kryptonite, duh), and even though I've been asked this question before, I still have to stumble around on this one for a minute and consider my answer carefully, based largely upon the stuffiness and demeanor of the people sitting across the table from me. "My biggest weakness...hmmm...
No, that's not the answer they're looking for...
No, that isn't right either. Damn it, this is a hard one.
Oh, I've got it! "I often find that I become too involved in my work, and apply myself too much. I don't leave enough work for my co-workers to do, AND I rarely make it home to see the family. Usually, my employers have to lay off some people who don't have anything left to do, and I have estranged relationships with everyone from my personal life, because of my committed devotion to whatever company I am working for at any given moment. It's a curse."
Then comes a personal favorite of mine. "Where do you see yourself in five years?" You're supposed to make yourself appear ambitious...but not too ambitious, like you're wanting to take one of their jobs already.
"Sitting on a beach in the Caribbean," is not the answer they are looking for.
The right answer looks a lot more like this. "Ideally, I'd love to have grasped the basic concepts of this incredibly interesting and insanely complex work environment. I have ambition, but only as it pertains to seeking out the ongoing mentoring from every middle management person who works here, with an eye toward eventually receiving mentoring from upper management, and finding costs savings, while simultaneously maintaining my starting salary, cubicle, and title."
"Have you ever stolen anything from a company before?" Correct answer: "No."
Interviewer: "You've never stolen anything from a company?"
Me: "No. Never."
Interviewer: "Mr. Malone, could you please put the stapler back on my desk?"
Me: "Of Course. Sorry. I didn't know that you could see that."

Never mind the fact that the management personnel most concerned about theft are usually the same ones who have figured out a way to remodel their houses using duct tape stolen from the office supply cabinet, and have outfitted the kids' rooms with computer printers that use the same ink as they have at work. This line of questioning was developed by HR gurus (probably from Wal-Mart) to weed out the really stupid applicants who will smile, shrug their shoulders, and admit to having "borrowed" a stapler once to try and appear more honest. It didn't work. You're not hired.
"How do you handle conflicts at work?" This is another favorite and there a hundred variations, all of them too vague to mean anything, unless they ask for a specific instance...
...and you tell them about the time that you turned the entire workforce against Greg, because he had stolen your stapler, and how Greg eventually had a nervous breakdown, left the company in shame, and hasn't been seen since. Take that Greg, you stapler stealing bastard.
This isn't their idea of conflict resolution either, by the way.
My favorite interview EVER involved an HR person who informed me in front of a fifteen year employee and shop foreman, that I was simply too smart (not overqualified, mind you, but "too smart") to work there and would get bored. She was right, by the way, and I knew that she was right when the shop foreman sat there, smiling at me the entire time, and shaking his head in agreement, apparently not privy to the fact that she was also saying, in not so many words, that he wasn't that smart at all.
That interview ended with a tour of the facility. "That's Bob," the shop foreman said, pointing to the man at the end of a long corridor, assembling widgets at the end of a dark hallway, two hundred feet away from any other human being. "He's been doing this job for nine years. This is one of the openings that you've applied for."

"Is he retiring or something?" I ask.

"No," the foreman replies. "He's moving to nights."

As I ran out to my car and sped away, never to look back, I knew in that one instance, at least, that the HR person was right. I'd never make it. Not like Bob did. That just isn't where I saw myself in five years. Thanks for asking, HR people.  You're much more intuitive than I ever gave you credit for. Thank you.
I'll be in this picture in five years, if anyone is looking for me.

Thanks for reading!

-Buzz-

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